UK army seeks recruits by offering emotional support

LONDON — The British Army launched a campaign on Wednesday highlighting the emotional support available to new recruits as it seeks to address falling soldier numbers — but drew accusations of political correctness.

Short films entitled “What if I get emotional in the army?”, “Can I practice my faith in the army?”, “Do I have to be a superhero?”, and “Can I be gay in the army?” will be broadcast on television, radio and social media.

They are part of a drive launched last year presenting the army as a family, as military chiefs seek to reach a wider pool of talent to keep their numbers up.

But the ads drew criticism for ignoring the fact that soldiers’ primary goal is to fight.

It comes just weeks after the army reportedly abandoned plans to give up its long-running “Be The Best” slogan because it was not inclusive.

“The main group of people who are interested in joining aren’t worrying so much about whether they are going to be listened to or if there’s an emotional issue,” Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, told BBC television.

“What they are worried about more is how they are going to face combat and, not only that — they are going to be attracted by images of combat because that’s why people join the armed forces.”

The army had just over 78,000 full-time members last year, well short of the government’s target of 82,000 by 2020. But the numbers leaving outweigh new recruits.

General Nick Carter, the head of the army, said it used to rely on recruiting young, white men, but there were fewer of them available now as society became more multicultural.

“What this campaign is about, frankly, is a recognition that we don’t have a fully manned army at the moment, that the demography of our country has changed and that we need to reach out to a broader community in order to man that army with the right talent,” he told BBC radio.

He denied Kemp’s accusation that the army was “being forced down a route of political correctness”.

“I happen to be very proud of the fact that the British army really does respect the background, ethnicity and gender of anybody,” he said. — AFP